Nigella sativa Linn (Ranunculaceae), commonly known as black seed or black cumin, and as ‘Al Habba Al-Sauda’ or “al-Habba Al-Barakah’ in Arabic and ‘Kalvanji’ in Urdu and some local languages in the Indian subcontinent, is used in Asia and Europe as a flavouring agent in bread and pickles and also as a natural remedy for many ailments.
It is even mentioned in Al-Bukhari but we shall leave this to Mohammad Akram Randhawa to elaborate lest we upset the religious bigots.
While research on Nigella sativa's health effects is limited, over 400 scientific articles can be found in the US National Library of Medicine detailing its immune-boosting and antioxidant benefits in animal studies.
The available data suggests that Nigella sativa holds promise for treatment and/or prevention of the following conditions:
Nigella sativa may help ease symptoms of asthma, according to a small study published in 2007. Study results showed that those treated with Nigella sativa had significantly greater improvements in the frequency and severity of asthma symptoms (such as wheezing).
2) High Blood Pressure
After eight weeks of twice-daily treatment with Nigella sativa extract, researchers found patients with mild hypertension had a greater reduction in blood pressure compared to those assigned to a placebo supplement.
3) Pancreatic Cancer
In a series of lab tests, scientists discovered that thymoquinone (the chief constituent of Nigella sativa oil) significantly reduced levels of pro-inflammatory compounds found in pancreatic tumours.
In a small study, the powder of seeds of Nigella sativa, were orally administered to 10 hypercholesterolemic patients at the dose of 1 g before break fast for two months and was found to reduce total cholesterol, triglycerides, HDL-cholesterol and LDL-cholesterol level to a highly significant extent.
5) Erectile Dysfunction
There have been anecdotal reports of the benefits in this interesting area. Interest is centred on thymoquinone, the most active constituent of the volatile oil of Nigella sativa seeds, which has demonstrated potent antioxidative properties and vasodilator effects in animal studies.
Is Nigella Sativa Safe?
Available in supplement, tea, and whole-seed form, Nigella sativa is generally considered safe. However, tests on animals indicate that high doses of Nigella sativa may damage the kidney and/or liver. Taking Nigella sativa during chemotherapy may hamper the effects of chemotherapy drugs.
If you're considering the use of Nigella sativa for treatment or prevention of a specific health problem, make sure to consult your doctor before you start your supplement regimen.
Mohammad Akram Randhawa. Black seed, Nigella sativa, deserves more attention. J Ayub Med Coll Abbottabad 2008;20(2). Full text.
Bhatti, I. U.; Rehman, F. U.; Khan, M. A.; Marwat, S. K. Effect of Prophetic Medicine Kalonji (Nigella sativa L.) on lipid profile of human beings: an in vivo approach. World Appl. Sci. J. 6(8): 1053-1057, 2009 Full text
Ali BH, Blunden G. "Pharmacological and toxicological properties of Nigella sativa." Phytother Res. 2003 17(4):299-305. Abstract
Boskabady MH, Javan H, Sajady M, Rakhshandeh H. "The possible prophylactic effect of Nigella sativa seed extract in asthmatic patients." Fundam Clin Pharmacol. 2007 21(5):559-66. Abstract
Chehl N, Chipitsyna G, Gong Q, Yeo CJ, Arafat HA. "Anti-inflammatory effects of the Nigella sativa seed extract, thymoquinone, in pancreatic cancer cells." HPB (Oxford). 2009 11(5):373-81. Full text
Dehkordi FR, Kamkhah AF. "Antihypertensive effect of Nigella sativa seed extract in patients with mild hypertension." Fundam Clin Pharmacol. 2008 22(4):447-52. Abstract
Idris-Khodja N, Schini-Kerth V. Thymoquinone improves aging-related endothelial dysfunction in the rat mesenteric artery. Naunyn Schmiedebergs Arch Pharmacol. 2012 Jul;385(7):749-58. Epub 2012 Apr 12. Abstract